Sunday, June 3, 2012

Enchanted Evening

The time is currently 3:38am and I'm up and about on the third night of my sleep experiment.

I've been voraciously reading the book Seth Speaks, along with a couple of others, and it is blowing my mind in entirely new ways. One is by answering questions I never knew I had until I see someone else ask them in print before me as I read. The other is by giving suggestions that are completely new, but super intriguing, like the one I'm trying out now.

This one has me never sleeping more than 6 hours a pop (and, in order to go the whole hog, which I tend to do with odd things like this, I haven't topped 4 hours, just to be sure.) It isn't that you actually sleep any less once all is said and done in any 24 hour period, but the sleep times are moved around, allowing for a couple hours of waking time to break in to any large chunk of sleep. In my case, this is pretty easy since Friday was the last day of school and now Terrence and I are house sitting at a gorgeous place even farther back in the woods than we were before.

Anyway, for the past three nights I've been going to bed at the regular time but setting my alarm for the wee hours of the morning to pop up for a couple of hours, hang out, do some reading, have a cup of tea, maybe a few minutes of yoga, and generally benefit from the nighttime negative ions and energies that I ordinarily sleep through.

The idea behind this is that in the current cultural paradigm I, and probably you too, find ourselves in, we sleep in these massive chunks of sedentary unconsciousness every night. This splits the subjective, creative, emotional dreaming world from the objective, linear, intellectual waking world in a way that is unnatural, apparently - our nature-friendly ancestors would be up at various points in the night, checking to make sure all was well, perhaps doing some nighttime foraging or hunting, etc. Animals still do this, even house dogs and cats, I realized when thinking about it, remembering how my in-laws' little dog goes back and forth from room to room at night, checking on everyone.

Apparently, this huge split, along with the idea that being so still for so long is actually detrimental to the purely physical processes such as blood flow and metabolism (which I get, theoretically,) means that not only waking up a bit at night, but sleeping a bit during the day would even this out. For 9-5 workers, the author of the book recommends the first "nap" to be just after dinner, with the longer sleep periods a few hours later.

I will say that I adore napping and always have. Now I have an excuse to do it :) Although, to be fair, it isn't easy schedule-wise to do this, even for me. But in trying to be pure with my little experiment, I've realized that one should capitalize on that sleepy afternoon hour or so whenever possible and escape to dreamland.

Back to the objective/subjective thing. Apparently the difference between dreaming reality and waking reality is not nearly as huge as we think it is (which I believe, considering some of the caaraaazy nighttime journeys I've had over the years,) and flipping back and forth between the two modes of consciousness gives us a more authentic, "true" sense of the world we inhabit. I get that, and I've noticed a difference there.

Which leads me to...

How is it going?


I really like being up at night. I'm ordinarily one of those annoying morning people, and I've found that now, I'm more mellow in early hours - not tired, I always awaken refreshed, but not so chipper and bouncy either, which I'm sure anyone I interact with before 10am would tell you is a relief. :)

The first night of my experiment, I woke up at 4am or so. I realized halfway through my 10 minutes of yoga that unless something unexpected was going on, every single person I knew in the world was asleep just then. My team was all vacant! And I shared this wakeful existence with others on the other side of the globe. That was pretty cool.

A drawback has been that I haven't smoothed my schedule so that I have predictable sleep times yet, which makes 6pm sometimes feel like 10:30 or 11 and past my bedtime. I'm trying to stay fluid with it, and there is something very delicious about occasionally waiting to go to bed until you're childishly sleepy. Feels sweet, almost like a piece of candy. I know that sounds odd, but it's my experience.

Tonight, on the first evening in a strange, albeit beautiful, place, I turned in at 10:30pm and set my clock for 2:30am. I awoke at 2:21, noticing the nearly-full moonshine on the bed below me and angling my head to get an eyeful of that magical view. I love how moonlight penetrates you when you gaze at a swollen moon, it has such a cleansing effect. I realized with a quiet chuckle that my body had anticipated my alarm clock and I got up, slowly going through an abbreviated morning routine to be comfortable for my up-at-night time.

Other claims on this new schedule is that creativity and energy will be enhanced and dreams will be more intense and easy to remember. I do feel more creative, especially at night. I've started work on a new book that's been percolating for a couple of weeks, only working at night so far. As for my energy level, I don't think I've given it enough time yet - I haven't noticed a shift in either direction so far.

I will say though, that waking life has taken on an interesting and yummy dreamlike feel. I'm not tired, but my mind and body are working differently. I don't get as caught up in the rush and mental chatter as I ordinarily do. I tend to use mindfulness to help with this, but I've stayed pretty mindful naturally. That alone is worth the shift.

Ok, I'm off to begin to wind down. I'm going back to sleep at 4am (so in 20 minutes or so) and then will arise at 8am, leaving an hour and a half later to go pick my sister up from the train station. Today's her birthday (happy birthday, Michal!) It will be the first time in years that we've gotten to be together on the actual day. Good times.

Happy dreams!


  1. I've read a couple of times now that it used to be very common for people to sleep in 2 or 3 "chunks" and sleeping all through the night is fairly new for humans (relatively speaking). people would use the waking time between sleeps to think about their dreams, pray, have sex, or visit neighbors or family who were also awake. according to one article i read, this "second sleep" activates the pineal gland (buzzword!) and inspires more vivid and lucid dreams.

  2. Yes, that makes sense! The first night I had amazing dreams, and then either last night or the one before I dreamt I was visiting with a friend's children and calmly told her 4-year-old daughter than she was in my dream. :) Fun!
    We do have some buddies under the same experiment who we may hang out with on some wee hour mornings. Makes you feel like you're in on some joke that the rest of the world is sleeping through!

  3. Us night shift people have known about this for years. I peak somewhere between 2 and 4 am, unfortunately the rest of the world does you have to quietly klunk and clang around during your peak of inspiration and energy.